Wizards draw line with Strickland; $33 million, 3-year deal is apparently final offer


The Washington Wizards have apparently issued free-agent point guard Rod Strickland an ultimatum: Accept the team's three-year, $33 million contract offer or play elsewhere.

The Wizards are offering Strickland, who led the league in assists last season, a contract worth $11 million a year. Strickland's agent, David Falk, is seeking a five-year deal in the vicinity of $65 million -- or $13 million a season. The Wizards are apparently reluctant to sign Strickland, 33, to a five-year deal.

According to an NBA source, the Wizards are seeking a quick response from Strickland to be in a position to pursue another free-agent possibility if he signs elsewhere. The Houston Rockets are the only team in the league that could pay Strickland close to the amount he's reportedly seeking, but that money will be committed to Scottie Pippen when teams are allowed to sign players -- perhaps starting tomorrow.

If the Wizards fail to sign Strickland, they will likely pursue free-agent point guard Sherman Douglas, who played last season with the New Jersey Nets. New Jersey will likely sign free-agent point guard Eric Murdock, making Douglas expendable.

Strickland has attended just one day of Washington's informal workouts, saying last week that he was hopeful to return to Washington. Pairing him with Mitch Richmond would give the Wizards one of the league's best backcourts.

"I hope I come back, but I'll let my agent take care of that," Strickland said last week. "I definitely would like to keep all my options open."

Meanwhile around the league, yesterday was another day of waiting, wondering and waffling, with the start of training camps and the onslaught of trades and free-agent signings pushed back at least until tomorrow as lawyers for owners and players haggled over the fine print of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Lawyers for the league and union are talking nearly round the clock. The main sticking point continued to be whether the new middle-class exception can be used for a three-year contract (the league's contention) or a six-year contract (the union's contention). Others matters include salary cap circumvention rules and the specifics of the anti-drug agreement.

Antonio McDyess put off for another day a decision on where he'll play -- Denver or Phoenix.

If McDyess chooses the Nuggets, there is widespread speculation that the Suns would turn their attention toward Tom Gugliotta, who was thought to have narrowed his choices to staying with the Minnesota Timberwolves or joining the Nuggets.

The Nuggets also were wondering whether they would be spurned by Gugliotta in the event that McDyess stays in Phoenix. If so, they were expected to look to sign free-agent center Vlade Divac. Divac flew back from Europe yesterday, and will have a choice of signing with Denver, Phoenix or the Sacramento Kings.

Also yesterday, the Associated Press learned that John Starks and Chris Mills are the players who will be traded from the New York Knicks to the Golden State Warriors for Latrell Sprewell.

Colangelo confirmed that the Suns will trade three of the five players they have under contract -- Mark Bryant, Martin Muursepp and Bubba Wells -- for Longley.

In another agreed-upon deal, the Seattle SuperSonics were set to send center Jim McIlvaine to the Nets for forwards Michael Cage and Don MacLean.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 1/20/99

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